3 S.R. Johannes: Natashya Wilson - Senior Editor Harlequin Teen

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Natashya Wilson - Senior Editor Harlequin Teen

I'm back! Thank you guys soooo much for all the emails wishing me well. I'm fine but the attention never hurts :) It was so sweet of you - I could not believe it!

Now onto business!

The winner of the Middle Grade Lot is...

Natalie Acquire!

Today we have Natashya Wilson from Harlequin Teen. I had the privilege of meeting Natashya at BEA and we chatted about the publishing biz for a while. I loved talking to her and didn't want it to end, but she was so busy and nice enough to give me some of her time. Have you ever just wanted to chat with someone over coffee that you just met? That is Natashya. She's so down to earth and fun. Really - not scary at all :)

Today, I have a group of books to giveaway from Harlequin Teen. Rachel Vincent's Soul Screamer series (The newest one is signed - thanks Rachel!) and Intertwined by Gena Showalter. I met both these authors at their HQ signing and they were adorable.

Just answer the question below to be entered.

Hi Natashya, thanks for taking time out today. First, tell us about yourself as an editor and about Harlequin Teen.

Before coming to Harlequin , I was a graduate student at Syracuse University. I started working for Harlequin from 1996-2000 as an editorial assistant, then as an assistant editor . I left for a few years and worked as an associate editor for McGraw-Hill and then for the Rosen Publishing Group, where I edited children’s nonfiction books. But in 2004, I came back to head up the Silhouette Bombshell series.

In 2009, Harlequin was ready to launch the new YA imprint. The company had discussed doing YA for years, and last year, the timing felt right. I jumped at the chance to head up this new venture because I’ve always loved young adult books. We launched with titles by three of our Harlequin adult authors, two of whom created brand-new YA series for the program. My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent (August 2009) features a heroine who discovers she is a banshee. Intertwined by Gena Showalter (September 2009) features a teen hero with four souls trapped in his body. Elphame’s Choice by P. C. Cast (October 2009), a reprint of our 2004 Luna title, features a goddess-blessed heroine destined to leave her home and save a banished people.

Our 2010 lineup has 16 titles, a mix of paranormal, science fiction and contemporary romance. Our list includes a girl who discovers she is half-faery, a police chief’s daughter on the trail of a mysterious graffiti artist, and a teen dating expert who gives her peers advice through her Web site. We’ve got a loner-turned-rebel-leader fighting for justice in a future world, more Soul Screamers banshees, a teen witch, the next Intertwined novel, and ghosts.

What a interesting lineup. I especially love the loner-turned-rebel! I know HQ is very new in the YA Market. So what types of books is Harlequin Teen looking for? Is romance a requirement?

For now, we are primarily targeting girls ages 13-18 and want books that will appeal to that audience, but we may consider branching out as we grow. I will say that the YA market has an ever-growing crossover readership as evidenced by Harrry Potter and Twilight.

Many teens have told us they do like some romance in their stories. Knowing that, it’s hard to appeal to this age group without some romance element, but a romantic relationship is not a specific requirement. There is enough romance in our books to satisfy those who want romance, combined with intriguing characters and storylines for those who don’t care about romance as much.

We are looking for good books. I’m always up for being surprised! As an editor, I’m always looking for something special that grabs me on the first page. But for me, in the end, its about voice and that special something that sets a story apart from everything else. I think there are a lot of great ideas and writers, but we want the exceptional few.

There are so many great YA imprints. What do you feel is unique about the Harlequin Teen line?

Our program is comparable to many of today’s top YA publishing programs. The type of stories we’re doing would fit in at Little, Brown; Razorbill; HarperTeen; Simon Pulse; Flux; and many other houses. Our program is currently fairly small, but I hope people are starting to see us as a major contributor in the YA market.

One thing that is pretty unique to Harlequin Teen is our Harlequin brand recognition. This is both a bonus and a challenge, depending on the preconceived ideas readers have about Harlequin. Part of our plan with this program is to utilize the strong reputation Harlequin has to build curiosity, draw readers in, then explode those preconceived notions with our compelling editorial.

How is Harlequin Teen changing the way they market their authors? What are you doing in the way of social networking to expand your readership?

With limited marketing budgets, online social networking and marketing is a terrific way to go. We are now focusing on egalleys (go to netgalley.com to request a copy of one!) in addition to starting Facebook and twitter pages. We know our teens are online, so that is where a lot of our promotion lies. Blog tours, banner ads, splash pages, and book trailers are the start of many ways we'll reach out to potential readers online. If you follow Harlequin Teen on twitter, you'll be following me directly, with all the inside scoop on Harlequin Teen, including reviews, book trailer links, news of author signings, excitement when I edit a great new book or acquire a new project (pre-previews of what's coming!), and much more. And our Facebook page, where our editors and authors post frequently, also has all the latest news.

We do also utilize traditional marketing, with advertising to the trade and seeking opportunities for optimal store placement and ways to highlight our authors through conventional means. But we are very conscious of staying on top of developing technologies and finding innovative ways to deliver our editorial.

Currently, we have two free ebooks available online for digital download, Rachel Vincent's prequel to the Soul Screamers series, My Soul to Lose and Julie Kagawa's new Iron Fey novella Winter's Passage, download available free until July 31.

I read the novella and it was awesome! Rachel and Julie are very visible online. What do you think authors need to do to best promote themselves online? Before and after publication?

It helps if an author establishes an online presence. Most of our authors are pretty savvy. Many have a website, blog, Twitter account, or Facebook page, for starters. I don't think it is ever too early to get online and start establishing connections with YA reviewers, librarians, other authors and, most important, readers. I believe readers appreciate having access to authors, being able to tell them their thoughts on the books and hearing firsthand what an author is up to. If an author has established connections and has reviewers who are particularly supportive, s/he can tell her editor too, and make sure her material gets into the desired hands.

That said, authors should be wary of spending TOO much time online! The number one priority should be writing the next fabulous book.

I admit I am guilty of hanging out online too much sometimes. What are you looking for and how can writers submit to you?

I'm looking for authors with strong, distinct voices, stories featuring compelling characters, fresh twists on familiar plots, and anything unique. It's so hard to pinpoint what makes something work. I've said no to a lot of truly good books, for various reasons--perhaps a story was similar to something we're already publishing, or the story was good, solid, but not ultimately outstanding, or was strong but just didn't light my editorial fire. We do have a small program and don't want to compete with ourselves for sales, so if a story feels similar to something we're already doing, we're likely to pass.

At this time, we're accepting agented submissions only. This makes me a little sad, because traditionally Harlequin has been a house where you don't need an agent to get a foot in the door. However, it got to a point where we had such an overwhelming number of submissions, I had to find a way to control the flow, and limiting it this way made sense. For the latest submission status, you can always check our writers guidelines online at www.eHarlequin.com.

Thanks Natashya!

You can follow Harlequin Teen at website and facebook and twitter.
You can follow Rachel Vincent at facebook and twitter and blog.
You can follow Gena Showalter at facebook and twitter and blog.
You can follow Julie Kagawa at facebook and twitter and blog.

Comment and tell me "what makes a romance real for you in a teen book"? I will include you in the drawing for "awesomeness!". (Remember you must be a follower of my blog to win!)


Kerri Cuev said...

I like that Harlequin has a teen line now! I have always enjoyed the adult books! Great post!

As to the question hmmmm...the newness of a relationship and issues teens deal with. I should have cheated and asked my teen lol.

Larissa said...

Teen romance feels real to me when the author is able to convey that tingly feeling. You know, the fluttery stomach feeling where you might die if he doesn't kiss you, but you might die if he does... LOL.

I also need to really be in the mc's head. I hate it when I'm reading a YA novel and think "that was a dumb thing to do" or "what the heck is wrong with her?!?" If the author is doing his/her job well, I *am* that character and her motivations and decisions are completely believable - even when she does something stupid.

Great interview, Shelli!

Anonymous said...

YAY! That's my editor! *Waves to Natashya* Don't need to enter me for the contest; I just wanted to say hello and great job!

Julie Kagawa

Natalie Aguirre said...

I'm so excited to have won. Thanks Shelli.

Natashya, your line up of books sounds great. I love Julie Kagawa and can't wait to read the online novella.

Anonymous said...

*Waves to Natashya*

Well I'm a teen and I've never been in a relationship. But it seems real to me when there are mistakes made. If everything is perfect, then it isn't a real realationship !


Stephanie said...

Nothing makes me remember what it's like to be a teen more than insecurity!! And I love a book that can convey that perfectly! In some way or another, every teen is nervous about something, whether they are popular or not.

throuthehaze said...

What makes a romance real to me in a teen book is the uncertainty and awkwardness.

Meredith said...

What makes a YA romance real to me is the dialogue between the couple: either incredibly awkward (like most teens) or undeniably filled with chemistry.

Great interview! I love Harlequin Teen books :)

Riv Re said...

I think I'm going to look into the HQ Teen line a lot more now. I always prefer books with romance, where the romance isn't the center of the book.

As for the question, teen romance is real for me when the romance is real. When a character can like another one because of more that a cute face or nice hair, or a muscular chest. That seems cheesy. I want there to be something deeper, like enjoying the other character's personality.

Spav said...

YA romance is real to me when there's awkwardness, insecurities and a few mistakes along the way.

BTW, I love the Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa. It's really cool.

I've been meaning to read those 4 books! *fingers crossed*

Jessie Harrell said...

I love YA romance where the suspense is palpable. Where you're hanging on the edge of the page waiting for that first kiss just like back in high school. OMG, is he going to kiss me now? And then it doesn't happen for forever and it makes you itch for the characters - esp. when they have good chemistry.

Margay Leah Justice said...

That is a good question! I think it all comes down to how the characters feel about each other and how they interact with each other. If they argue and bicker all of the time and are suddenly all hot for each other, this can seem pretty out of character - and can take you right out of the story. But if there are hints thrown in - subtext in the arguing - little signs that they are attracted to each other and maybe just argue because their feelings for each other scare them and they're trying to keep each other at a distance, that's different. I think this is true whether it's a young adult or adult book. You never want to think, why are these two together, they have no chemistry.

Jemi Fraser said...

This is the first I've heard of Harlequin putting out a teen series - love it!

For me, I think a 'real' teen romance has to include a lot of depth. The characters need to think, not just react. Teens are so complex, they have so many layers. I'd want the romance to reflect that.

Carol Tanzman said...

I totally agree with Natasha when she said, "That said, authors should be wary of spending TOO much time online! The number one priority should be writing the next fabulous book."

ali cross said...

That was a GREAT interview. Wow. I am practically salivating with the desire to work with Natashya. Does that sound too creepy? ;)

What makes teen romance real to me in a story? I want to see the whole nuttiness of teen love: that psychotic feeling we girls get when we want the boy so badly and we go practically insane wishing we could have him, wondering if he likes us as much as we like him, obsessively thinking, dreaming, stalking. Oh wait. Is that just me?

Catch My Words said...

When it comes to teens--be it romance, action, adventure, or humor--it's all about voice. The voice of the characters will either make it real or doom it to failure.

Thanks for another great contest, and I do hope you're feeling back to normal.


CHRISTIE said...

I love how teen romance is both innocent and intense at the same time. If an author can convey that I’m impressed. Life before we had to worry about jobs, bills, and other grownup responsibilities. Oh, to be young again :)

Sylvia said...

I think a real romance for me is one that develops, grows, and not just there immediately. I like to read how their feelings grow as time passes and they get to know each other more. It's more sweet and at the same time raw that way and not to mention real:)
Thanks for this contest!


Anonymous said...

Interesting. I'd heard of Harlequin Teen and was wondering it if was only romance. Thanks for the info.